The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman

A delightful little snack of a fairytale. Part of me wishes it was longer, but only because then I could have taken longer to read it. The rest of me thinks it's small but perfectly formed.In typical Gaiman style, much is hinted, little is explained outright, but there is ample allusion to myth and legend. Someone here wrote that reading his books should be approached like solving a puzzle - in that case, this is the back of the tabloid sudoku compared to the NY Times Crossword that is American Gods. Both are fulfilling to finish, in their own and quite different ways.

 

What I have always particularly liked about Gaiman is his approach to children: These children are not stupid, they see what is happening around them, even if they don't understand all the context. They are not little angels, who are perfect and solve all their problems by magic, and they aren't small adults who solve problems in adult fashion. Children view the world in such a different way to the rest of us, and Neil Gaiman is one of very few authors who manages to capture it: The way their world is both matter-of-fact and pure magic at the same time, and the one doesn't ever have to get in the way of the other.

 

I remember once a very long time ago now, waking up late at night from some parental instinct and finding my then 4 year old daughter sitting in her window staring out into the night. I asked her what was wrong and she turned to me with huge eyes full of tears and said "Oh mum, sometimes I just think too much about the moon" - and there it was, the moon, huge and bright, and seeming to fill the sky above forest. So we just sat and looked at the moon and listening to the waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing onto the shore below the house, until she was ready to go back to bed. I'm not entirely sure why that memory jumped to my mind when I closed this book, but it did, and I am glad.

 

I think it might be because this book reminded me of how magical childhood is, although not always wonderful, and "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" reminded me of a moment when I as an adult was allowed a peek back into it.